Major UK city rejects plans for Ulez-style Clean Air Zone despite 'terrible' air quality

Clean Air Zone sign

One supporter of the plans called it a 'politically craven act'

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 24/11/2023

- 15:02

'Communities who get the sweet taste of a Ulez don't look back'

Reading has become the latest city to rule out a scheme similar to London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, a move which has been described as a “craven act” by supporters.

A number of towns and cities across the UK have been looking into introducing new emissions-based charging zones which taxes the most polluting petrol and diesel vehicles.

Four cities in Scotland will introduce new charging laws with Low Emission Zones next year as cities are urged to reduce pollution rates.

Reading Borough Council dismissed plans for the scheme, with Wokingham Borough Council following suit in ruling out any proposals.

WATCH NOW: Andy Burnham fights back against ULEZ in Greater Manchester

The Labour administration insisted the quality of the air in the commuter belt city was gradually improving, despite criticisms from other parties.

David McElroy, a Green councillor, highlighted how three major roads in the city exceeded World Health Organisation recommended limits for particulate matter, adding that the town’s air quality was “terrible”.

He added: “Ruling out a Ulez ... is a politically craven act that puts perceived electoral advantage ahead of people's life expectancy and our kids' development.

"Communities who get the sweet taste of a Ulez, however suspicious they are initially, don't look back.

“Anyone who actually sniffs outside their window knows that air quality in Reading is terrible.”

In response, John Ennis, lead councillor for climate strategy and transport, said there was an “improving picture”.

However, he did acknowledge that pollution levels in some areas were “not acceptable”, adding “everyone in the town deserves to have clean air”.

According to GOV.UK, there is only one future Clean Air Zone, namely in Greater Manchester, which remains under review.

Reading Borough Council has a draft form of an Air Quality Action Plan for 2024 to 2028 which is set to go out to a public consultation.

Councillor McElroy, who represents the Redlands ward, has urged local motorists to participate in the consultation when it launches, which is expected to be in March next year.

There had been plans in 2021 to introduce a Clean Air Zone although a council report found that it would only have a “marginal” improvement in air quality.

In most Clean Air Zones, drivers are charged between £10 and £15 to drive inside the affected area if their petrol or diesel vehicle is older and does not meet emissions standards.

The most famous charging zone is London’s Ulez which charges £12.50 for vehicles, with the scheme being expanded earlier this year to include all of Greater London.

There are seven Clean Air Zones in operation around the UK, four Low Emission Zones, London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone and Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone.


Clean Air Zone sign

The London Ulez was expanded on August 29 this year


This includes Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Tyneside, with Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow having Low Emission Zones in operation.

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